Are Jerk Bosses More Successful?

Ellen Rohr
Contributing Writer
Bare Bone Biz

Tim Armstrong, CEO of, fired an employee on a conference call as over 1,000 employees listened in.  There was a media frenzy, and twitter blew up with angry hashtags.  Oh, my.  Did he cross the line?  Or is it OK for the boss to yell at an employee?  To fire him in front of other employees?

How about you?  Have you ever pitched a fit at work or launched, “You’re fired!” with a red face and shower of spit?  Is it OK to be a jerk of a boss?  Do you have to be a jerk to be successful?

Perhaps it’s time to question what it means to be the boss…and what it takes to be a good one.  We have been conditioned to equate being a boss with being a money-grubbing bully.  It’s time to let go of this damaging management model.

Forget about being the boss.  Embrace being a leader.  Here are a few lessons from inspiring leaders…

Bring yourself to each moment.

George has presence.  He is the owner and manager of a wholesale company.  He is second generation, which matters because so often dad casts such a long shadow.  George has earned his position in spite of his pedigree.  When he walks through the office, there is a wave of energy that precedes him.  People stand taller, and anticipate their moment of interaction.  George stops and engages each one.  He is present and interested in that person and what’s happening.  The interactions are brief and sincere.  “Great.  I like your plan.  Keep me posted.  Thank you.”  People want to be seen, and to know that they matter.  Here-and-now interactions lend to an awesome culture and solid leadership.

Book suggestion:  The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle

Be willing to do what you ask them to do.

Santos got frustrated with the resistance to change as his company.  His vision was clear…to him.  Nobody else was getting it.  Position by position, Santos put on the uniform and followed his new procedures.  He tried them out, tweaked them and proved them.  Then, he turned to the person in that position and said, “Jump in.  The water’s fine.”  His team knows that Santos is not a lead-from-behind kind of guy, and the company culture oozes trust and respect.

Book suggestion:  Endurance, by Alfred Lansing

Give them some rein.

Once, I watched Jim green-light a decision by one of his managers that had, I thought, a less than 20% chance of being successful.  “Um, are you setting that guy up to fail,” I challenged.  Jim is a former military man, and I had him pegged for more of a micromanager, too. Jim replied, “What he is suggesting may not work.  It might, though.  Either way, I can live with it.  If it turns out it was a poor decision, well, then we will know.  You take a manager’s power away (as well as all the fun) when you tell him how to do everything.”  I love this plan- execute- debrief approach to management.

How about you?  Leadership development is lifelong journey. Tune into your own authentic leadership.

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